Baseball America's Jim Callis wrote on Twitter (@JimCallisBA) after the Washington Nationals' selection of 17-year-old right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito 16th overall in this past Monday's 2012 First-Year Player Draft, that the Nats and GM Mike Rizzo had drafted another impressive prospect to go along with the players they've added through the draft over the last three years. "As I just [said] on TV," Mr. Callis wrote, "to get [Stephen] Strasburg, [Bryce] Harper, [Anthony] Rendon and [Lucas] Giolito with four straight 1st-rders is a tremendous haul." In an interview with ESPN980's Al Galdi on Friday, the BA writer talked about the risk the Nationals took in drafting a high school pitcher with a sprained ulnar collateral nerve in his right elbow and the potential gem they selected in the middle of the 1st Round.
"[Giolito] was the biggest wild card in the draft," Mr. Callis told the ESPN980 host, "When Lucas Giolito was healthy he was throwing 100 [mph] which is obviously something not a lot of pitchers do, and he probably would have been a top three pick in the draft and commanded a bonus in the neighborhood of say $5M dollars. Now, of course he's going to say the injury is behind him, and it's tough. He had a sprained ligament, and a sprain by definition is a tear, and sometimes these can he fixed with rest and rehab and it heals itself, but of course there's also concern that if you had a minor tear once, what's going to happen down the road?"
Mr. Callis explained that the history of high school pitchers who've had Tommy John surgery is, "not great", because, as he says, "It's not like it fixes you for life, it's more like an 8-to-10-year fix," and, he added, the track record of hard-throwing high schoolers is not great either. With the pick, Mr. Callis said, "It's basically a high upside, high risk pick here. The curious question will be, how much can they sign him for under baseball's new rules that have very severe draft pick penalties if you [overpay]? Because the assigned value for that pick is $2.125M, the Nationals assigned bonus pool -- and they can move money around as they see fit for the entire first 10 rounds -- is $4.4M and it's less than [Giolito] might have commanded if he was healthy."
The first three picks in the 2012 Draft had assigned slot values of $7.2M, $6.2M and $5.2M, respectively. Nats' Assistant GM Roy Clark agreed with Baseball America's Mr. Callis' assessment of where a healthy Giolito might have gone when the former Braves' scouting director spoke to reporters after the Nats' selection on Monday night, explaining that at 16th overall the right-hander was a talent they couldn't pass up. "When he's 100%," Clark said, "he goes top three in this draft, so it's kind of a no-brainer." Nats' Director of Scouting Kris Kline told reporters on Thursday that he thinks Giolito will eventually fit in very nicely atop an extremely talented group of pitchers in the Nationals' rotation.
"'You've got to look down the road a little bit,'" the Washington Times' Amanda Comak quoted Mr. Kline explaining in a teleconference from the road yesterday, "'But if you think about having Giolito and (Stephen) Strasburg and Gio (Gonzalez) and Jordan Zimmermann at the front of your rotation... now you've got some depth again in the pitching.'" Mr. Kline and Assistant GM Roy Clark have reportedly already hit the road to meet with and hopefully sign the Nationals' 2012 picks, many of whom have already inked deals.
Mr. Kline told reporters yesterday, however, that Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo would be the one who would deal with the Nats' 1st Round pick. The Nats' GM told reporters on Monday that the Nationals would do everything they could to get him signed while working with the new rules agreed upon under the new CBA. "We're going to put our best foot forward" the GM said, "and try to sell him on our place here in Washington as the place that will get him the healthiest and get him the best opportunity to do what he wants to do and that's to pitch in the big leagues."
"If the Nationals go even $300,000 over that bonus pool [$4.4M]," Baseball America's Mr. Callis explained in the ESPN980 interview on Friday, "They lose a 1st Round pick next year. And if they go say $600-$700,000 over that bonus pool they'd lose two 1st Round picks, so it will be very interesting to see how all that plays out. Nobody had a great sense of what it would take to sign Giolito going into the draft." There's also the matter of Giolito's commitment to UCLA. As the right-hander explained in a conference call with reporters this week, though his dream has been to pitch in the Majors, "UCLA is a really big option for me, and we'll see how everything plays out." The deadline to sign this year's draft picks is July 13th at 5:00 pm EDT.